A LAWYER has warned 30mph speed limits in residential streets may not apply when roads are plunged into darkness during the night.

Last year, Essex County Council switched off seven out of ten street lights between midnight and 5am in a bid to save £1million across the county.

Antony Hook, a barrister who works in Essex, claims because many streets do not have 30mph speed limit signs, the only way motorists can be expected to recognise a restricted zone is if there are street lights up to 200 yards apart, as is stated in the Highway Code.

But he added, in darkness, unlit lampposts are easily missed.

Mr Hook said: “There is a strong legal argument that switching off street lights can also remove a speed limit.

“Motorists may have a defence to a speeding charge because street lights have been switched off.”

The Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 states it is an offence to exceed 30mph on a restricted road, but adds a driver “shall not be convicted where there is not the necessary lighting system unless there are the necessary signs”.

A spokesman fot the Deparrtment for Transport said: “Drivers are told via speed limit signs when they enter a 30mph limit and the onus is on drivers to make sure they are aware of what signs mean and what is expected of them.

“The Road Traffic Act is clear that street lighting indicates the speed limit, and in our view this applies even when the lights are off, for example during the day.”